How to make sure your prices sound right

How do your prices sound to you? OK? When we read a price on a website, or in a brochure or magazine, your brain turns what it sees into sounds; it’s part of the way we read. You may well be “hearing” some of the words you are reading right now, for instance. New research conducted by American Psychologists shows that the sound we hear of the price we read affects our likelihood of buying something.

Working out the best price takes some care

Working out the best price takes some care

For instance, if something is on sale for £10, but you reduce it in order to grab some additional sales you will get more people buying at £8.66 instead of £8.22. Even though, mathematically, the discount is greater for the £8.22 price, people perceive the £8.66 to be cheaper. Crazy? Perhaps, but it’s all to do with the value we attach to sounds, which is then confusing our brain.

We perceive long vowel sounds as in “twenty two” to be of higher value than short sounds as in “sixty six”. The difference is between the “oo” and  the “i” sounds. There is also some difference between the consonants. “Fricative consonants” such as the “x” in “sixty six” also indicate smallness to our brain and hence the shortness of the vowel sound combined with the special kind of consonant means we mistake the £8.66 as being cheaper than £8.22.

This explains why you see so many prices end in 97, rather than 99. The vowel sounds in 7 are shorter than in 9 – and even though the price difference is marginal at best, we perceive to be much cheaper because of the shorter vowel sounds. The “s” in 7 is also a fricative consonant, adding to the greater perception of cheapness.

What this means is that when you are displaying prices on your website – or in any printed documents – you need to show things which “sound” cheaper than they actually might be. So, if you are discounting, look for lower prices which have short vowel sounds, rather than long ones. Showing you are cutting your price by 6% instead of 9% will be more likely to get additional buyers (in spite of the lower discount).

Paying careful attention to the sound of your prices may well bring in additional sales, compared with just showing a lower price.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
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